Places in World Most Likely to Secede Bangsa Moro

About Bangsa Moro a place in the world likely to secede from the Philippines, size, population, and history of conflict.

MOST LIKELY TO SECEDE

BANGSA MORO ("MORO NATION")

Size: 30,500 sq. mi. (79,000 sq. km.).

Population: 5 million.

When the Spanish first reached the Philippines 400 years ago, Islam from Indonesia and Malaya had spread only to the southern islands. The Spanish never successfully imposed their rule in the area, and the U.S., which replaced Spain at the beginning of the 20th century, established an administration in the south with great difficulty. The Moros (from "Moors," as Filipino Muslims are called) of the southern Philippines are culturally closer to the residents of East Malaysia (North Kalimantan), but colonial boundaries placed them inside the Philippines when that nation achieved independence at the end of W.W. II.

As Christian Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas migrated southward after W.W. II, religious hostility grew. In the late 1960s, when Pres. Ferdinand Marcos awarded large timber and agricultural concessions on Mindanao to U.S. and Japanese companies and granted "unused" jungle to Christian homesteaders, Moros protested. Communal violence broke out. Both Muslims and Christians, who by then made up a majority in most southern areas, organized paramilitary bands.

When, following Marcos's 1972 declaration of martial law, the central government ordered citizens to turn in their guns, Moros resisted. They formed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and claimed the 21 provinces of the Sulu Sea islands and Mindanao. Reportedly financed by Libya and trained in Sabah (East Malaysia), the Moros took control of important sections. The Marcos regime has committed $1 billion, 100,000 troops, and fighter bombers to the fight, which has killed as many as 10,000 civilians and created a half-million refugees.

In late 1976 the MNLF and the Marcos government met for negotiations in Libya, under the auspices of Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. They agreed to a cease-fire, and in March, 1977, a tentative settlement calling for Moro autonomy (in a 13-province zone in western Mindanao and the Sulu Sea islands) was announced. However, the Moros rejected a government plan for a plebiscite (the region is 60% Christian), and fighting has resumed.

In addition to its sugar and rubber plantations and forests, the southern region of the Philippines contains the bulk of that nation's known oil reserves.

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